Diplomacy Needed in Vatican Row

Irish Independent
January 31, 2012

The Doctrine of Infallibility is not something a Labour leader can invoke to dismiss an argument.

In the row over the closure of Ireland's Vatican embassy, Eamon Gilmore, must envy Pope Benedict when it comes to fending off the protests by Fine Gael backbenchers pressing him to reverse the decision.

One wonders why they are not turning the screws on the Taoiseach, Mr Kenny, who has been the most severe critic of the church in recent history.

Do they regard Mr Gilmore as a softer touch?

It is hardly a coincidence that the motion to re-open the embassy comes as the Pope's new representative to Ireland, Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles J Brown, arrives in Dublin today.

However, there are many who would argue that with the closure of hospital wards, the increase in class sizes, and with almost half a million people on the dole, an embassy in the Vatican is a luxury we can scarcely afford.

There is also the argument that a rebalancing of the relationship between the church and state was long overdue.

Many felt that the pulpit has cast too long a shadow over society, while others will decry the fact that we have gone too far in the opposite direction, and that the church has been forced into a defensive position.

Apart from the ideological or religious arguments, there may also be an element of blatant political opportunism at play here.

If Fine Gael TDs can lay the blame for the closure of the embassy at the door of Mr Gilmore, and thus gain electoral advantage down the line, they will do so.

Fianna Fail also want the closure reversed.

Perhaps there is merit in Mr Gilmore's own proposal that the Vatican in the future might recognise an ambassador based in the same embassy as the Irish Ambassador to Italy.

At the moment, the Vatican will not recognise any ambassador in this situation. Surely a solution is not beyond the limits of diplomacy?


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